New Internationalist

Balancê

May 2006

It’s easy to say that the music of Cape Verde hit the ground running. But spare a thought for the musicians of the new Verdean generation: such artists, like the brightly talented Sara Tavares, who represent the link between the African-flavoured fado of their parents with the interwoven cultures experienced in any modern city. The Lisbon-based singer-songwriter Tavares is alert to the pitfalls that threaten anyone bridging the gap between heritage and upbringing. Rarely has an album been better named: Balancê is a release that takes up the challenge with grace and poise.

Indeed, the 13 songs of Balancê tilt at a self-defined quality. Tavares favours a rich mix of language – Portuguese, with rich slang inflections from Angola, Lisbon and Verdean Crioulo, with English kept to a healthy minimum. The resonances attached to such vocabulary do not marginalize the linguistically challenged listener. Tavares’ musical style is very much her own: ballads, though not the gut-wrenchers with which fado is associated, all with soufflé-light arrangements and nuances. Now and then, an accordion takes a phrase and runs with it, as on the lovely ‘Ess Amor’, but in all, the emphasis is on control. The stunning ‘De Nua’ (featuring fadonista Ana Moura), is a prime example: just drums and two voices, but the tight focus is felt elsewhere. ‘Planeta Sukri’ (Sugar Planet) sweetens Cesaria Evora’s favoured coladeira rhythm with a loose, reggae template; ‘Bom Feeling’ swings with good-humoured exhortations, and ‘Muna Xeia’ (Full Moon) is luxurious in its wistful simplicity. Solid talent, impressively produced.

Louise Gray

This column was published in the May 2006 issue of New Internationalist. To read more, buy this issue or subscribe.

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